Focus on Planning-ness 2014

September 10, 2014

Tomorrow will be the kick-off for Planning-ness, a two-day conference in Portland, Oregon being attended by two TP1 strategists (John Pankert and Jeremy Duhamel). This event, which is described as an “un-conference”, is remarkable for its focus on action (“how to”), as opposed to other conferences that just expect you to listen. To learn more, TP1 interviewed Planning-ness founder, Mark Lewis.

What is your professional background?
My background is that of a creative strategist, mostly working for agencies. Recently though, I have been focusing on developing digital product strategies for a number of clients.

Where did you get the idea for this event?
While still in the advertising world, I was becoming frustrated with the kinds of conferences that were available for folks like me. I would often walk away not knowing how to actually apply the ideas that speakers had introduced. Worst of all, a lot of speakers talked mostly about themselves or recycled the same topics addressed in previous years. This, at a time when technology and user experience design was becoming more, not less, important to our jobs. When the AAAA strategy conference was cancelled in 2009, I saw an opportunity. Working with the AAAA, we held the first Planning-ness in San Francisco, but adopting a more participatory format. We have sold out every conference since then.

What kind of knowledge or experience will participants walk away with?
It very much depends on the speakers you see! But, to take a few examples, you might learn how to build a simple Internet of Things device, discover tools that facilitate how you observe the world around you or explore what it takes to pitch to venture capitalists.

Could you tell us more about your “how to” approach?
People learn more by doing than they do just listening. Brands have greater impact when they do and not just talk. We wanted to bring those concepts together in one event to show strategists how to make things that they could take back to their clients. We do that by asking speakers to teach for 45 minutes (on average), then give the audience an assignment. People work in groups to put into practice what they have just learned, then receive feedback from the speaker.

How do you decide which speakers to invite?
We are always on the look-out throughout the course of the year for people who are doing interesting things on the periphery of the advertising world, or who are tackling topics and concepts that stand out as being useful and practical. This means we read a lot of blogs, papers, etc. for new ideas. We try to meet a lot of interesting folks. If we have a topic, we will look for a knowledgeable speaker. If we have a person, we try and convince them to donate their time.

Do subjects or themes change if the conference happens on the west coast or the east coast?
No, not really. We generally don’t have themes, although this year we have put greater focus on entrepreneurs and start-ups. It’s probably more driven by who we know in this market.

After the next two days, we will provide you with a resume from the Planning-ness event. If you’re already thinking about signing up for next year’s conference, the 2015 edition will be happening in the east—in Toronto. Each year, the conference moves from one coast to the other, in order to better accommodate participants. To learn more about Planning-ness, click here.

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The image above is from the website of the agency Almighty from Boston